Local Legend of An Seabhac

Local Legend of An Seabhac

Donnybrook has never been shy of characters, of movers and shakers, despite its modest, gentrified atmosphere. One such figure, a long-time Donnybrook resident, was Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha, also known as An Seabhac or The Hawk.

An Seabhac was a prominent and influential figure of early 20th century Irish culture, a key populariser of the Irish Revival. He was an author, storyteller, folklorist, activist and politician.

The nickname is thought to be a consequence of his years as a travelling teacher, when he adopted it as a pseudonym for the writing of his most famous book Jimín Mháire Thaidhg. This book, known in its English translation as Jimeen is a fictionalised account of life growing up in the country, which follows the tribulations and misadventures of a young boy who can’t stay out of trouble.

Local Legend of An Seabhac 1

An Seabhac worked as a teacher from 1910 until 1922 in Kildare and in the Fermoy region of Kerry. He also worked as an editor of The Light, a bilingual magazine which lasted six years, from 1907 to 1913. He was a member of the Gaelic League from early in his life and a frequent member of the League of Employment, which was an outgrowth of the Gaelic League. In 1911, a resolution, proposed by him and a colleague, was adopted that helped set the agenda for the on-going revival of the Irish language: the proposal was to teach Irish, to children of secondary school age, as a living language, rather than an antique one. This strategy persists to the present day.

In 1922 he moved to Dublin under the auspices of the Department of Education. It is around this time that he is thought to have taken up residence in 119 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, where he remained until towards the end of his life. He continued to stay active in a large number of writing and political projects.

Speaking to NewsFour, his granddaughter Niamh Lynch remarked that, “he was so prolific a writer that the family almost took it for granted, it didn’t seem unusual.” She explained that he wrote a daily diary, often two or three pages a day, “which people just don’t do anymore”.

During the Civil War it is said he did his best to reconcile the opposing sides of the conflict. His political sympathies were primarily republican and he spent a great deal of energy in the 1920s establishing Irish-speaking schools in Dublin. Personally appointed to the Seanad by his friend Éamon de Valera, he served three terms as a Senator before leaving the public service in 1932.

An Seabhac died in 1964. His personal papers are on loan to Tralee Library and his archive has been digitised and stored by the University of Limerick.

Left: Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha, also known as An Seabhac or The Hawk pictured with his dog.
Above: Pádraig orating at a memorial in 1957 with Éamon de Valera in the background.
Photos courtesy Niamh Lynch.

By Rúairí Conneely